Like in the real world, when I see a dog in a videogame I want to befriend it. For whatever reason, too many game devs seem to think that what I really want is to kill it. Please hear me when I say that this is really and truly not the case. My heartbreak when Kassandra accidentally bumped into a friendly village dog in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and it whimpered and was forever scared of her afterwards was acute. That was enough.
Look, I get it. Dogs can be used to assist in battle, be it in Odyssey’s ancient legions, modern-day gangs, or fantasy bandit camps. But not enough games let the player have a dog companion (Far Cry 5’s Boomer being an excellent exception, as well as the Marbari hound you can recruit in Dragon Age: Origins; plus, you can pet both dogs). Even when they do, most dogs you encounter in games are hostile or openly aggressive, necessitating that you kill them to move forward in the area. Call of Duty, for example, makes me snipe or pummel dogs like it’s not actively destroying my soul to do so. All of the game series mentioned above include copious dog attackers and are far from the only ones, although the worst offender may be The Last of Us: Part 2, which seems to relish in it.
Why do you do it, devs? Even worse, wolves in these games bark like dogs and then whimper and moan when you kill them. (Frankly, I’m tired of wolves in the woods of every shooter or hero game anyway. There must be a more creative choice at this point, especially in a fantasy landscape.) If you want these fighting dogs or wolves to be ferocious beasts that we must kill—which I still would prefer to not be the case—can’t they growl in death? Or seethe with their last breath of rage? Must they sound like a kicked puppy? It’s sick!
Perhaps there could be a more common option to recruit at least some “enemy” dogs. You don’t have to have the player literally surrounded by a dog pack, but the recruited dog could happily take off on its own, with you just knowing it’s out there doing Good Dog Work. Or at the very least, neutralize them like goats and rams and foxes. Let dogs be part of the bandit camp or fort but don’t make them fight me. Don’t make me fight them! (I don’t even really want a potential dog companion that is just forced to fight other dogs or wolves, either, but it’s better than having to use a sniper scope or snapping the neck of a doge when it jumps on you, which is traumatizing.) Update: I forgot about tranquilizers! Let us tranq the dogs if we must!
I acknowledge that I am more than willing to take out untold numbers of human fighters without a second thought, but they have choices and agency … probably! But the puppers, man? Come on. It’s a cheap emotional shot. For the love of dog, give us a break from the carnage and let some joy in.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV